Thursday, March 05, 2009

Is it more cost effective for a postman to drive or walk their route?

You know I'm a curious sort.

The only reason I ask is - it was about spring of last year when I noticed postal workers not walking their routes in my town anymore. They were driving to every single house. At the time I was getting 4 inches of junk mail a day. Some days I would get 10 credit card applications. And I'm not even exaggerating. Sure gas was crazy expensive. But, I figured most people were getting a ton of junk mail and it wouldn't make sense for the carrier to go back to the truck as often as he would have needed.

Well - this year my junk mail has decreased by 80%. Some days I only get a whispy postcard or two. Yet my mailman still drives to every single house. I'm expecially curious now, because last month the postal service was whining about loosing so much money. And how they wanted to cut a day from the delivery route.

It seems to me that maybe they could cut back on costs by... ya know. Walking. But, maybe it isn't as cost effective as I think.


  1. Most likely (but not for sure) it's going to be cheaper for the carrier to drive. Every so often (18-24 months or so) routes at a post office are inspected: mail is counted and the route is adjusted. During this week or so, every piece of mail is counted (not estimated, but counted one by one). Then a higher-up follows the carrier as he or she walks/drives/whatever the route to make sure the mail is being delivered in the most efficient manner. Then the route is "adjusted" with some having stops or deliveries added, others having them dropped and shortened. Some routes will have their Line of Travel (the order in which mail is delivered) adjusted.

    I'm going to assume that sometime prior to when your carrier changed from walking to driving that a route inspection showed it actually is cheaper/more efficient to deliver the mail in the method (driving) it is now.

    I don't remember (it's been 10+ yrs since I was with the post office) that labor is between 85-90% of the expense. So save 15 minutes here and there adds up.

    Another thing since I'm so long winded today.. Stamps/postage not taxes pay for moving the mails. The only exception is stuff like non-profit mail (charities, unions, other non-profits) that CONGRESS has decided should get a break on postage. Postal rates used to be adjusted about every three years. The rates would go up and Year 1 the PO would "make" money, Year 2, they would "break even" and Year 3, they would "lose" and use the profits from Year 1 to cover losses. Now they're going to an annual probably increase.

    John from
    Pomeroy on the Palouse

  2. That was a really informative reply. Thank you.

  3. Thanks. I hope it wasn't too long. I enjoy reading your posts. (even Mr. S's too.) keep it up.


  4. Nope! It was perfect. Thanks for the compliment.